Albanians Launch New Club

At kickoff event, members view film, set goal to increase awareness

Andrea V Haas

Margen Cuko ’06, president of the newly-founded Harvard Albanian Club, addresses students and members of the local Albanian community in celebration of Albanian Independence Day on Friday night in Adams House.

Over 30 members of the Albanian community from Harvard and the Greater Boston area donned red—the color of Albania’s flag—and enjoyed food and a movie screening in Adams House on Friday evening to celebrate the official recognition of the Harvard College Albanian Club.

The club’s kickoff event also marked Albanian Independence Day, which is observed at the end of November.

“I’m really happy today,” said the club’s vice president, Borana Toska ’07. “This club is a necessity. It’s really been too long.”

President Margen Cuko ’06 estimated that there are about 10 Albanians currently at the College.

According to the World Fact Book, Albania, which is to the northwest of Greece, has a population of about 3.5 million.

“It’s a small country,” Cuko said. But he added, “It has an interesting history and traditional values that we want to share with the Harvard community.”

Sharing these values and making Harvard students more aware of Albanian issues are the primary goals of the club, Cuko said. The club will accomplish this by organizing seminars with distinguished Albanian speakers.

Cuko said that it might be difficult to attract non-Albanians to these events, but he added that he was confident that the speakers’ “interesting resumes” would generate interest in the larger community.

“Albania is a relatively new country and it’s an interesting case study,” said University and Public Affairs Chair Dritan Nesho ’08. “It’s an opportunity to ask ‘What does it take to build a democracy?’” Albania began its transition to democracy in 1991 after nearly 50 years of communist rule.

In addition to lively conversation about the future of the new club, Friday’s event featured a screening of “The Slogans,” a movie about life in an Albanian village during the communist era. The club’s leaders also presented a slide show of images of Albania and famous people from the nation, including Mother Teresa.

Organizers said the club hopes to cooperate with both other international groups at Harvard and Albanian groups in the Greater Boston area. Nesho said that there is a more sizeable Albanian population in Boston than many students expect. “Albanians live everywhere,” he said, from South Boston to Cambridge.

The final aim of the club, according to Cuko, is to reach out to Albanians still in the country, especially Albanian youth. Cuko said that there is a lack of information available to Albanian students about American universities.

“We want to open their horizons and have them understand that there are opportunities available for their education,” he said.